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DISPASSION contributors Wyatt Coday and Sarah Bricke viewing Kameelah Janan Rasheed’s exhibit i want to climb inside every word and lick the salty neck of each letter at REDCAT in Los Angeles, California on July 14, 2024. Photo by Joy Ray.

033 — A desolate time for the empathic worker. Fetishists to the rescue. When quitting is not enough.

DISPASSION is a newsletter about art, digital media, and emotional detachment produced by NOR RESEARCH STUDIO.



Study confirms curiosity can have terminal effect on earnings. Animal fetish group conducts strategic assault on right-wing political foundation’s data holdings. Artist says sculpture about misogyny improved through vigilante beheading. Dog whistle against watermelons sounded by St. Louis nonprofit. Milquetoast Los Angeles art institution proves useful for local reforestation efforts. Beloved electronic musician announces new album to raise funds for his next Buchla module.


We’re excited to bring back our summer workshops. This time we’re running a convergent set of experiments involving grants and publications. We foresee a hostile funding environment in the coming year, so we’re doubling down on our proposition that a strategic loss can produce future gains. 

Throughout the workshops, we’ll explain how to use a grant application to simultaneously develop a portfolio website, design a PDF publication for your work samples, and explore supplementary income streams — assets that will immediately improve your chances of receiving funding and attracting exhibition opportunities. 



The first two sessions in August will be pay-what-you-can community research workshops where we collaborate as a group to better understand our collective needs and demystify aspects of the application process. Sessions can be attended individually or completed as a set.

August 3, 2024

During this two-hour session, we’ll discuss the general granting landscape in the arts with specific attention paid to the changing role of curators. Reviewing art projects that were awarded funding by organizations like Creative Capital, the Graham Foundation, and the Teiger Foundation, we’ll break down the basic components of grants and discuss the elements that make for a compelling proposal.

August 10, 2024

Using the materials gathered during the first session, we’ll spend another two hours discussing how to convert grant applications into other assets like books and websites, and how to integrate your application with your online portfolio. Participants are encouraged to bring in-progress materials to be reviewed for feedback by the group.


In the later sessions, we’ll focus on two specific individual artist grants respectively funded by the Graham Foundation for Art and Architecture and Creative Capital. Participants can attend one or multiple sessions, but each workshop will be limited to 15 guests. Attendees can also book additional editing and consulting hours at a discounted rate — $50 per hour.


August 17, 2024

August 24, 2024

These two-hour workshops will prepare participants to apply for a 2024 individual artist grant through the Graham Foundation using our signature HOW TO COMMUNICATE IN WHITE PEOPLE framework. Drawing from research the studio conducted last year, which resulted in a funded project, participants will read against the grain of the foundation’s request and use the criteria it upholds to shape, evaluate, and strengthen grant and project proposals across the creative industries. 

The deadline to submit letters of inquiry to the Graham Foundation is September 15, 2024.

Participants who are interested in learning about grants or improving their grant proposals are encouraged to attend even if they don’t plan to submit a letter of inquiry.

Per our ongoing practice, the studio will develop an application that it will share with applicants throughout the sessions. These dummy applications will model best practices and demonstrate how to, for example, center architecture in a project where architecture may only have a secondary role.


Beyond applying for a Graham Foundation grant, participants who want to learn more about the grant writing process and develop a project using the foundation’s application as a template are welcome to attend. PhD candidates in the process of completing a doctoral dissertation on architecture and its role in the arts, culture, and society may be eligible for Carter Manny Award and are also encouraged to enroll.


August 31, 2024

September 7, 2024

These sessions use the Creative Capital grant to build a proposal template that can be used across projects for the 2025 application season. These workshops are best for artists and cultural workers who have applied for grants in the past without success. Attendees are encouraged to bring application materials from the past which they’re comfortable editing with the group.



A few days ago, I briefly snapped out of a stupor that had more or less prevented me from working on projects over the last month. It had been quite a while since the idea of placing myself in front of a computer or even jotting down a few notes made me feel paralyzed, but after finishing various deskbound tasks for clients during the day, my aversion would return in the late afternoon when my mind inevitably went blank. The editor inside my head was busy, it seemed, destroying ideas before they could even resonate, leaving me feeling numbed, emotionless, and even a bit bored.

Pushing aside summer malaise, the problem was likely that I had much that I needed to write about. The week where inflammation in my joints left me unable to use my right arm. The surprising utility and accommodation provided by the lightweight, travel-ready keyboard I acquired so I could continue to practice music with one hand. The $2,000 a certain Los Angeles nonprofit that has not yet suspended its operations still owes me and its sibling demand letter that sits undisturbed in the cloud. The four CDs I received from my doctor last November which contain scans of my lymph nodes that I cannot open and have never been permitted to see; the series of appointments that were canceled or rescheduled in the process of producing and receiving those scans as well as the cryptic text I received from the cytopathologist who disappeared on me. My untouched novel and the various grant applications that form its extant chapters. The list was beginning to overwhelm me, but I could not muster action, which only exacerbated my sense that fatigue had rendered me powerless.

In situations where I feel blocked, I avoid forced activity. But I also knew on some level that this new blockage had to do with technical aspects of the writing I wanted to produce. Since conceiving UNPUBLISHABLE — this publication’s take on a wizened advice and gossip column — I had drafted a slew of false starts while brainstorming ways to deconstruct soured artist-institution interactions I had learned about without outing specific people or entities unless it was absolutely necessary. From these false starts, I hoped to develop a format that I could use to quickly and routinely produce case studies which demystified why, for example, it was mutually destructive for institutions to engage in the bad faith bargaining with artists — something these orgs are legally prohibited from doing with their employees — or why a simple five-point operating agreement between collaborators was better than none at all. Stories like these hold their teeth and merit in their details, which doesn’t help independent artists who may want to have public dialogues about their personal experiences without having to sacrifice pending invitations to make, present, or be paid for their work.   

Initially, it was rewarding to experiment with formats and search for useful, safe, and repeatable ways to reexamine the mind-boggling scenarios I witnessed in my daily work. I also had my own experiences to work from. But after a few weeks of trying to describe situations like exploitative contract negotiations, pointedly racist job interviews, ghost job listings meant to collect data and other assets, and cash grabs disguised as open-call art contests, I began to feel a familiar disillusionment. The criteria for finding an adequate job, sustaining a freelance practice, and growing a business are already difficult enough. And though I think it’s safe to assume that none of the problematic behaviors I became privy to were devised yesterday, there was a compelling division in my mind between dealing with the antics of fledgling nonprofits whose lack of infrastructure causes disarray versus methodical attempts to consolidate power, extract labor, and divert funding conducted at legacy institutions. But I think that distinction might collapse under new weight. 

To be clear, I openly recognize working artists are fucked. Stasis until leveraged, leveraged until depleted is the definition of our class position. Rather, it was the excitement around finding a way to engage with legitimate questions about power, class, labor, and compensation that drove my curiosity — a force that was tempered by my desire to protect those who had sometimes unwittingly conveyed sensitive information. But at times I began to wonder if this impulse to protect was also part of the problem. 

Years ago, I learned firsthand that many of my paranoid theories about institutional power dynamics — namely that decision-makers in these spaces consistently lack the skills necessary to do their job but by the same token have access to resources and power which allows them to leverage and exploit others, as the late David Graeber similarly describes in Bullshit Jobs — could be illustrated and evidenced by a handful of email exchanges already in my possession. As the writing I regularly publish here demonstrates, I’m no stranger to conflict or controversy, but I also recognize my ability to find work is contingent on my reputation as a good faith interlocutor. Recently, this crunchy polarity between discordant public accountability doula and politically savvy independent worker with institutional clients has hinged on a particularly frustrating aspect of the art world’s small, if not outright incestual, pool of participants. It could even be a bestie of your bestie conducting the institutionally backed divide-and-conquer efforts after all. Being a working artist or cultural practitioner necessitates confronting this discomforting reality and coming to terms with the ritual sacrifice it demands before you, too, naively find yourself on the community altar.

So after running the mental math and considering the risk associated with a few potential case studies, I consistently found myself deciding to wait for a clearer approach to show itself. Each time an idea for a story cropped up, I worked through possible angles that would protect the source, but ultimately the intimate, one-on-one settings where the exchanges took place meant discretion would override fact — almost as if this were a crucial component of a broader strategy. More importantly, though I already knew the dynamics that normalized bad faith bargaining behind closed doors, my recent focus on these experiences has affirmed my closely held belief that creative people are preemptively treated as inexperienced schmucks at the outset of negotiations because it conveys the central stipulation for proceeding with any coerced unilateral agreement. If you fail to perform the infantilized role delegated to you, it’s a sign that you cannot be sufficiently manipulated. Unless you submit to the humiliation in one or several ways, you will not be invited to participate. The door that led to the alleged opportunity will close.


Having worked with journalists in the past and conducted my own investigations, I can only laugh at my silly conviction that evidence could somehow temper these exploitative dynamics. And while there have been moments of profound, inspiring clarity when more experienced artists have dropped their mask and offered up personal feelings about the social conditions we have been forced to accept, I have no reason to believe conditions will improve. Nor can I explain why I cannot shake myself from the desire to produce something other than what exists. At the same time, this is the space where I have developed expertise and the area of my life where my thinking is its sharpest. I have no desire to abandon my art practice, but I’ve made the decision to only professionalize certain aspects of it to protect my joy and curiosity. 

When reduced to its basic substances, curiosity is openness and interest in potential change. Just like cats whose habits have earned them a gruesome idiom, the curious — myself included — are motivated to experiment by instincts that have broadly ensured their survival. Framed in a more positive light, this interest in what could be makes curious people vital centers of inspiration and hope. When one of their obsessions has sustained itself long enough to appear concluded, a previously imperceptible entry point reveals itself and the pursuit to understand it renews. It’s terrifying how smart our unconscious minds are.

For me, in the context of undesirable economic and labor conditions that threaten the the curious worker, I feel the faint bells of masochisms past resound. If I’m going to be oppressed into labor, I want the full scope of domination. It would be less fun after all if all these mindless acts of self-sabotage were truly on purpose. I say be rough with me, be intentional with your demands, but let me work and compensate me accordingly.  

It is my personal conviction that the status quo can be vastly improved upon and that the vital energies that creative labor affords are necessary for this transformation to occur. To start that process, I think we must dismiss the sea of mirages that we have convinced ourselves are jobs — jobs in the traditional meaning no longer exist as far as I am concerned. It’s ironic that some of the largest, most powerful philanthropic organizations have already reached this conclusion and reshaped their gifting criteria. They now want to see business plans and true evidence of entrepreneurial activity. That might not be the worst thing in a world where some people work and others pretend to work. But remember, the pretending isn’t the problem. It’s the demand to work without imagination.



← Forthcoming workshops and events


← Rhizome Net Anthology
← Filip Magazine
← Holo Magazine
← The Content Technologist on Productization and Templates
← Hyperallergic Opportunities Listings
← Creative Capital Opportunities Listings
← Pick Up The Flow Opportunities Listings


← Arts for Los Angeles Job Listing
← New York Foundation for the Arts Job Listing

— FIN —

WYATT CODAY is intersex and autistic. She lives between Los Angeles and Chicago, where she is a practicing financial dominatrix. She is the director of NOR RESEARCH STUDIO.

ODE TO SELF-EMPLOYMENT is an ongoing essay project that examines the murky relationship between artistic labor, self-employment, and gig work.

RAINMAKER is an event series about practical skills and difficult-to-hear realities that can transform your career as an artist. Taking up wide-ranging topics like grants, fundraising campaigns, contract negotiation, and product development while exploring their taboo undersides, the series hopes to inaugurate more transparent and accurate dialogues about money, debt, labor, and financial independence.

NOR RESEARCH STUDIO is a design research studio that develops didactic media, exhibitions, publications, and other forms of intellectual property for artists, nonprofits, and creative businesses.

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